Sonic Golf Sounds Pretty Good

By Dan Daley
This year’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational winner Vijay Singh uses it. So do a half dozen or so other PGA players, as well as a few coaches, engineers, and psychologists. No, it’s not Zoloft. It’s technology that uses sound as feedback to improve a golf swing. And it seems to be working.
Singh has been using Sonic Golf’s technology since mid June as part of his regular training routine, according to Sonic Golf founder and CEO Dr. Robert Grober, who has applied his expertise in physics to golf and married it to music. “The sound that the club makes in the course of its swing can tell a golfer a lot about that swing.”
With the intent of enhancing the information in that sound, Grober devised an electronics package that includes two accelerometers (same technology the Wii controllers use) and a music-synthesis chip that responds to MIDI commands. The package is inserted into the upper end of a standard club shaft beneath the grip. As the electronics sense the changes in speed and tempo of the swing, the data is transmitted to a belt-pack receiver, where the synthesizer chip generates a tone — Grober describes it as an “orchestrated sound space” — that the golfer can hear through standard earbuds. The changes in pitch and volume create steady, nearly subliminal feedback for the golfer, including where the transitional point is between backswing and downswing. The faster the swing, the higher the pitch, and vice versa.
“Our brains already are good at seeing and sensing how things are moving,” says Grober. “It turns out that they’re also quite good at converting sound into motion. It’s a matter of pattern recognition, and the sound creates a pattern.”
He says the sound space comprises as many as eight synthesized instruments. The mix is set by the company and is not user-adjustable, but, he says, with it, “theoretically, we can do anything you can do with a synthesizer.” And since the data is transmitted wirelessly between club and receiver, it’s also theoretically possible to make that feed available for broadcast.
About 20 beta versions of Sonic Golf system are on the links now, including Singh’s, and Grober expects the first batch of 250 systems, priced about $800 each, to be out before the end of the year.